St. Louis County mask mandate in limbo after vote

Coronavirus

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The future of the St. Louis County mask mandate depends on who you talk to. While the County Council voted to end the mandate at an emotional meeting last night, County Executive Dr. Sam Page says it is still in effect. 

The council voted 5-2 to end the mandate. The vote came after many people addressed the council. The vast majority of them were critical of the mask mandate and Page.

The Missouri Attorney General has filed a suit against St. Louis County and City to stop the mask mandate.

Page held a briefing this morning and said until the suit filed by the Missouri Attorney General is resolved masks are required in all indoor public places.

He said the numbers are too alarming to ignore.

“As health care professionals and as elected leaders we can’t stand idly by and let this Delta variant rack up more and more victims with each passing day,” said Page this morning.

Page said the recent mask mandate was put into place for several reasons.

  • On June 1, there were 40 cases of COVID per day, on July 27 there were 243 cases
  • On June 1, there was a positivity rate of 2.9% in St. Louis County, on July 27 it was 10.5%
  • 50% of residents in St. Louis County have initiated vaccine, when restrictions were lifted in May officials thought more people would be vaccinated

The members who voted to overturn the mandate were Tim Fitch, Mark Harder, Ernie Trakas, Rita Heard Days, and Shalonda Webb. Council members Kelli Dunaway and Lisa Clancy voted against the move to end the mandate.

Council member Fitch who led the effort to end the mandate says it violated a new state law meant to limit the power of leaders to enact health orders. 

Fitch says under the new law Page should have consulted with the county council before moving forward with the order. 

But Page says he did not nothing wrong and informed the council appropriately. 

Page says the mandate is also legal because it does not restrict any businesses from operating. 

Page stood by the importance of masks saying they will help slow the spread of the COVID virus especially with the rise of the Delta variant. He also stressed the importance of increasing vaccinations.

The County Health Department Director Dr. Khan warned the council about the rising COVID caseload.

“ICU occupancy continues to increase, pediatric patients continue to increase in number and the disease seems to be striking a younger age group than we saw at the same time last year,” Khan said.

“This is America, you are free to believe what you want but we’ve lost sight of the fact that people shed blood, their lives, their children, their mothers, their daughters, for us to have the freedom from tyranny. Tyranny is when one man, one man says I will decide for you. With no checks, no balances,” an opponent of the mask mandate said during Tuesday night’s meeting.

The council’s vote came after the CDC released new guidance Tuesday recommending that people in areas of high COVID transmission, like the St. Louis region, should wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

The CDC is also recommending that all students and staff in schools wear masks.

The St. Louis City mask mandate is also still in effect. After Tuesday night’s vote in St. Louis County, Mayor Tishaura Jones tweeted, “Wow. Just…..wow.”

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